again with the birth story?

Can I tell you my birth story? Oh, I already did? Are you sick of hearing it? Can I tell it again?

I love telling my birth story with Felix. As a midwife, I enjoy birth stories in general and know how important they are to women. Shortly after graduating midwifery school, I took a weekend retreat to a place called Omega. I had just been broken up with and my life was in transition from student to real world. I needed a weekend to regroup. I signed up for a Kabalistic Healing workshop at the retreat center, quickly found it silly and ditched the workshop for yoga and tai chi sessions and general R&R. I was nervous for the meals because they were communal and I knew no one, but I found that conversation flowed easily once people learned I was a midwife. Everyone had a birth story- they told me the stories of the birth of their children, of their sister of their nieces and nephews, of their friends and neighbors. I was a hit in telling some of the birth stories of my patients (no identifying info revealed, of course)

So you can imagine my excitement and sense of fulfillment when I finally had one of my own to share. But I both did and didn’t have one to share. I love my birth story with Mabel- how I was in denial about labor, how I held her in as long as I could, how I pushed her out in just three pushes. But it’s not one I get to share often, because telling the story involves sharing that I got an epidural- something I would have otherwise hoped to avoid, but when I was in so much labor pain without the reward or incentive of a take home baby, I caved easily. I would love to share how I got the epidural when I was in transition but didn’t know it, that once I lay down after placement, I was fully dilated, that I didn’t feel a darn thing until her head was practically peeking out. But these are all details that I only want to share in the right context- that I was giving birth to a baby that would likely die. I want to be able to share my birth story with Mabel easily, but since her birth is wrapped up in her death, there isn’t a happy ending. All that pain for what? I feel like if I were to tell that story I would garner sympathy- and that’s not what I want. I simply want to be part of the club, the mother’s club, where we share our birth stories, laughing, bragging and bemoaning every detail. People don’t laugh or ask details when your baby dies.

Felix let me into that club. I was in labor for 15 min. I delivered him myself. At home. Over the toilet. Isn’t amazing?

So you may get sick of hearing me tell my birth story with Felix, because it’s two birth stories. He came fast- very fast- because he was my second. His sister paved the way so he could literally fly out. I get to tell it over and over because I don’t get to tell Mabel’s story as much.

Thank you nurses and midwives

This week is a big week in my healthcare world.  It is Nurses’ Appreciation Week and tuesday was International Day of the Midwife.  In honor of both celebrations, I wanted to thank my beloved nurses and midwives.

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Dear Nurses,

thank you for bringing some laughter into my triage room as we waited for the maternal fetal medicine doctor to come and give me terrible news.

Thank you for being the protector of my privacy- making sure I was ready for visitors in the midst of emotional turmoil.

Thank you for telling me about the “secret menu” the hospital offers where I can order quesadillas and pork bacon.

Thank you for sitting and chit chatting during my two week stay, keeping me sane and reminding me that things were happening beyond the fetal monitor I was trying not to watch.

Thank you for watching that fetal heart rate monitor so I could have the freedom just to be pregnant, knowing my baby was safe.

Thank you not commenting on how ridiculous i must have looked in in my sleeping outfit- it was just too hot to wear pants even though I knew you’d be coming in to readjust the monitor.

Thank you cheering me along in my in hospital exercise regimen.

Thank you agreeing to be my labor nurse, knowing my case would be emotionally hard and would likely sit in your memory for a long long time.

Thank you for taking photos of Mabel’s birth- not in your job description, but so meaningful to me.

Thank you for watching my baby in my stead, while she was whisked away to the NICU and I got my stitches.

Thank you for repeating everything the neonatologist said, right after he left because I could barely process it all.

Thank you for getting Mabel skin to skin with me for as long as humanely possible.

Thank you for the footprints, in ink and in clay, that turned out amazing, all done while she was on my chest.

Thank you for making sure she wasn’t in pain.

Thank you for taking out her breathing tube, gently, allowing me a first good glimpse of my daughter’s face free from medical equipment.

Thank you for taking photos, during her life and her death and in the after.

Thank you for feeding me, which I needed direly, but was unable to recognize myself.

Thank you for being present but unobtrusive.

Thank you taking her gently when I gave her up that very last time.

Thank you for giving me peace and solitude to sleep and to grieve in the hours after I gave her up.

Thank you for coming to her wake, taking me for walks, bringing me food in the aftermath.

Thank you for being part of it all and keeping her safe, in pregnancy, in labor and in the NICU.

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Dear midwives,

Thank you for all the extra care

Thank you each for calling and checking in when we got the news about Mabel’s Down Syndrome.

Thank you for letting me make tons of extra visits to help keep me sane.

Thank you for letting me use my appointments as mini therapy sessions

Thank you listening for a heartbeat first thing, so I knew she was still alive, before doing the rest of the visit

Thank you for having the hard conversations with me- the ones that were hard for me and hard for you.

Thank you for being honest, saying “I don’t know,” when I asked how I was supposed to return to midwifery if my baby died.

Thank you for giving me the few things I had hoped for- skin to skin, Chris cutting the cord and announcing gender (if he could figure it out!).

Thank you coming to meet her in the few hours she lived- so that you are part of the proof that she actually existed.

Thank you for her dress, an outfit given with love and purpose, the only outfit she worse outside her grave.

Thank you for eating wings with me, bringing me cabbage leaves for engorgement and looking at photos in the aftermath, reminding me that you are not only my midwives, but my friends.

Thank you for the donations you made in Mabel’s memory

Thank you for the lilac bush that you gave me because you know purple is my favorite.  It’s beginning to bloom right now.

Thank you for remembering dates- due dates and anniversaries.

Thank you for saying her name, easily and freely, just like she was any old living child.

Thank you for keeping her safe in my womb and alive in memory.